ALLOUEZ — After 22 years as administrator of McCormick Assisted Living, Jim Genrich is retiring. Managing the senior care facility for the Diocese of Green Bay has been more than a job, said Genrich, which makes his retirement bittersweet.
“I enjoy what I do,” he told The Compass. “I joke about the fact that a number of our residents are younger than me.”
Genrich, who turns 69 in September, had been considering retirement for several years. When the Diocese of Green Bay began discussions late last year with Kaukauna-based St. Paul Elder Services to take over ownership of the facility, Genrich said the timing could not have been better.
“I thought it was a great idea and it would coincide with my retirement,” said Genrich.
According to a June 5 letter to McCormick Assisted Living residents and families, the diocese wanted a partner to manage the facility “in a way that remains true to the church’s healing and caring ministry.”
The letter, written by Fr. Daniel Felton, diocesan director of administration, stated that the diocese is dedicated to continuing to provide “the compassionate, faithful care you have come to know.”
“We are honored to be in conversations to bring the skills and reputation of Franciscan Sisters of Christian Charity Sponsored Ministries, Inc., and St. Paul Elder Services to an already impressive organization like McCormick Assisted Living,” said Bishop David Ricken in the letter to residents and families.
Sondra Norder, president and CEO of St. Paul Elder Services, said in the letter that the Kaukauna facility looks forward to further conversations with the diocese. No date has been set for St. Paul Elder Services to begin ownership and Genrich said his last day as administrator is Aug. 1.
McCormick Assisted Living was established in 1921 by two sisters, Sarah and Amelia McCormick. They wanted to honor their brother, Michael J. McCormick, founder of Northern Paper Mills, by founding a home for the elderly. The Diocese of Green Bay has owned the facility since it opened. The Sisters of St. Francis of the Holy Cross in Bay Settlement staffed McCormick Memorial Home until 2010.
The facility added a 16-unit residence for retired priests in 1995, Grellinger Hall, named for Auxiliary Bishop John Grellinger, who died in 1984. Due to fewer senior priests living at the facility, Grellinger Hall was turned into a residential care apartment complex on Sept. 1, 2017, open to all seniors. The entire facility’s name was also changed to McCormick Assisted Living. Four senior priests — Frs. Wilbert Buhl, Paul DuCharme, Al Geiser and Paul Vanden Hogen — still reside at the complex.
“The door is wide open to more priests, but we’ve just had very little interest over the last few years and that’s what kind of led to the change to assisted living for the public,” said Genrich.
Over the years, Genrich said his relationship with residents and their families has grown beyond the landlord-tenant affiliation.
“I’m not just a landlord. It is more than a professional relationship,” he said. “We have one resident, Leroy, who has been here longer than me. I go back to day one with his family.”
He recalls residents with interesting histories, such as Rowland “Bud” Rutten, who attended the first Packers game, a pickup game behind the Green Bay Packaging Company, said Genrich. “His mom was the plant nurse. Bud was about 8 and she came home from work and said, ‘The boys at work are playing football. You and your buddies should go watch them.’”
Genrich introduced Rutten to Cliff Christl, the Green Bay Packers team historian, who was visiting McCormick Home to interview another resident, Roman Denissen. He served as mayor of Green Bay when Vince Lombardi was the Packers coach. “I can’t believe what that guy remembers,” Christl told Genrich after meeting with Rutten.
Genrich, who earned a bachelor’s degree in regional planning from UW-Green Bay in 1971, began his career as a social worker for the Wood County Department of Social Services in 1972. He went on to earn a master’s degree in social work from UW-Milwaukee in 1976 and moved to Green Bay in 1978. He spent 10 years as a social worker at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical Center in Green Bay and also worked with area nursing homes.
“Along that process I got a nursing home administrator license,” he said. “In the fall of 1996, I saw McCormick was looking for an administrator. The health care, social work, human services and long-term care (experiences) kind of all came together and here we are, 22 years later.”
Genrich, a member of St. Matthew Parish in Allouez, said he has enjoyed working for the diocese. “I’ve had the benefit of serving under three bishops: Banks, Zubik and Ricken,” he said. “They’ve all been very supportive of what we do here.”
Today, McCormick Assisted Living is home to 62 residents in the community residential and assisted living apartments. Genrich admits that senior care living is a competitive market, which he said makes bringing McCormick under the St. Paul Elder Care umbrella a good decision.
“I really think it’s brilliant,” he said. “It’s a win-win for both organizations. … Under the Franciscan sisters’ umbrella, they have a number of services which I think they can bring here, maybe adding memory care. Things we’ve talked about but we’ve just never had the capital or maybe the expertise. It bodes well for McCormick’s future.”
In retirement, Genrich said his plans include spending time with his wife, Karen, their three children, Megan, Eric and Mallory, and five grandchildren. He also plans to spend more time with his community and civic projects.
Genrich serves as president of the corporate board of directors for Heritage Hill State Park, is a member of the Allouez Village Board and a 40-year member of the Allouez-Greater Green Bay Kiwanis Club.